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Official Review by Dave Cottenie, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Typically a bubble team in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Conference, the University of Guelph made a major investment into their football program. The Gryphons periodically have a very strong team finishing in the upper echelon. Other years, the Gryphons are in the bottom wrung of the playoff teams. The Gryphons do have 3 Yates Cups and the 1984 Vanier Cup to their credit.
The investment by the University of Guelph came in the form of a major renovation at Alumni Stadium. The 1970 structure was given upgraded seating and a new track and field turf were installed. The final piece to the puzzle was a video board that was added as well. The end result is an improved game experience for the Guelph students and fans, and a commitment to Guelph football for many years to come.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The concessions at Alumni Stadium are fairly limited. Your typical stadium fare is available underneath the stadium. Outside of the stadium there is a barbecue where you can get some decent fare including burgers and hot dogs. Just outside of the stadium there is a Domino's trailer which offers fans some pizza options. Sales are cash, so don't bother with your credit card and make sure you hit the ATM in advance. There is no alcohol sold or allowed within Alumni Stadium.
Alumni Stadium's facelift was definitely needed and welcomed. The stadium features one major grandstand , which is where the majority of fans find themselves. However, if you are looking for a bit of a different perspective, you may consider bringing your blanket and finding a spot on the berm seating on the opposite side. The combination of the new turf and updated landscaping make for a nice atmosphere, whereas it formerly looked unkempt.
The production of a Gryphons game is student run and there are a couple of features that deserve mentioning. On the track during the game is Dario the flag bearer, who runs a lap with the flag every time the Gryphons score. When he returns, he does 10 push-ups for the crowd to count out. This is especially entertaining when the Gryphons enter a high-scoring affair. The cheerleaders do their thing and do what you expect university cheerleaders to do. They tend to be on the gymnastic side rather than the dance crew side.
The video board is brand new and clear. It is the 3rd video board to make an appearance in the OUA, following the boards at Varsity Centre in Toronto and Ron Joyce Stadium at McMaster. For the seasoned OUA football fan, the video board is a treat.
Although Alumni Stadium is on the campus of the University of Guelph, the campus is so large, that the number of pre and post game options within walking distance are really limited. You are probably driving in anyway, so a 2 minute drive into downtown Guelph, near the Sleeman Centre may be in order. There are lots of options there. If you are looking for something different and close, you may consider the nearby P.J.'s Restaurant in the Atrium, which is student run.
The turnout for Guelph Gryphon games would have to be considered fairly average for the OUA. Tickets are not difficult to get, but there may be a bit of a lineup if you are buying at the door. For some reason, I've only attended games at Alumni Stadium when the weather is not the nicest. Even during cold and blustery fall days in Guelph, the hearty fans that show up have a good time and are fairly vocal.
The aluminium stands are used for stomping, and the resulting sound of thunder adds to the atmosphere. The student support of the Gryphons is not huge, as with any Ontario university, and there is no specific student section. More student support would help drive the popularity of the Gryphons into the community.
Getting to Alumni Stadium is pretty simple. It is located on the outskirts of the campus of the University of Guelph, which is a few short minutes from downtown Guelph. Located on College Ave West, Alumni Stadium is a few blocks from both Highway 7 and Highway 6. There is plenty of parking on the opposite side of College, and it is free on game day.
There are washrooms underneath the grandstands, and they are sufficient for the crowds that show up in Guelph.
As with other OUA experiences, a visit is a real bargain for a day worth of entertainment. An adult ticket will go for $15 and students come in at $5. Youngsters get in for free. Combine excellent ticket prices with solid concession prices and free parking, and you have a fall Saturday's entertainment for not a lot of money.
Extra marks for the commitment to Guelph football with the investment in Alumni Stadium with huge renovations.
Getting to see some top notch Canadian football on a Saturday afternoon for such a small price is a treat. The Gryphons are making their mark in the OUA, and are attempting to solidify themselves as a premier destination for student athletes in Ontario. For this alone, it is fair to cry out "10 Points for Gryphondor!!"
Follow all of Dave Cottenie's journeys on twitter @profan9.
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9 Wyndham St N
Guelph, ON N1H 4E2
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